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djellison
http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/dec/H...MSL_Update.html

From the wording of this announcement, MSL is clearly still on, which is a good thing. We'll have to wait and see.

Doug
Stu
I know a lot of people involved with MSL lurk here, so our thoughts and best wishes go out to you guys during this difficult period of uncertainty and speculation, etc. It must be a million times harder for you than for us. We're with you, ok? smile.gif
SFJCody
Might be a delay announcement
djellison
QUOTE (SFJCody @ Dec 4 2008, 12:00 AM) *
Might be a delay announcement


That's what I'm expecting. A quote I have on one slide on my "Cosmic Casualty" talk simply states

"Delay is preferable to error" - Thomas Jefferson

Doug
centsworth_II
I guess they can report on whether the actuators needed by the end of November to keep on track for a 2009 launch got there.
mars loon
It does sound more like a delay

especially in light of other recent official NASA comments, the naming contest, the landing site selection and this NASA MSL posting from Dec 1
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/spotlight/20081201.html

This will be a great science mission when it launches. given the complexities, better to complete the testing and prudently delay as warrented

my best wishes to the team

ken
Stu
Anyone here who wants to watch the briefing but hasn't got a link to a good NASA TV site, here you go...

http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/nasa/index.html

That's the one I use most.
dvandorn
And it's official -- launch delay to 2011, primarily due to the delay in actuator delivery.

-the other Doug
MahFL
NO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! mad.gif
dvandorn
I understand the feeling.

In addition, there is a prospective cost of about $400 million generated simply by the delay. That cost will be absorbed first by the Mars program and after that, if necessary, by the rest of the planetary program.

-the other Doug
Stu
Disappointing, I know, but much, much better to delay the launch and have all the problems sorted out than to have a "mad dash to launch" and send something to Mars that's not ready. This is a flagship mission, remember; if it crashed and burned it would crucify the Mars exploration program, especially in the current financial climate.

Teeth-gnashing news for us, but very hard on the people actually involved in MSL, many of whom are lurking here, or drop in on us now and again, so I hope others here will join with me in sending them support and best wishes. We'll get there, just not as soon as we wished.

dvandorn
Charles Elachi -- "It doesn't matter if you're one day short, or one week short, or one month short, you have to wait 26 months."

-the other Doug
mcaplinger
QUOTE (Stu @ Dec 4 2008, 09:15 AM) *
...very hard on the people actually involved in MSL...

To an extent, obviously, but at least I won't be sitting in our clean room doing calibration on Christmas as previously planned. rolleyes.gif
dvandorn
You sure, Mike? Griffin says that the coast thermal vac tests are going ahead on their current schedule. I'm assuming the calibrations would be part of that series of tests.

-the other Doug
elakdawalla
The 2011 launch window is in December, right? Does anybody know if it stretches into 2012?

--Emily
dvandorn
And for those of you who are hoping that your pet instrument might now be added onto MSL, per Doug McCuistion, "Is this an opportunity to update the payload? No." There will be no re-scoping or changes to the payload that aren't driven by engineering concerns that arise out of continued testing. In other words, no changes to the science payload.

On the other hand, Ed Weiler says that this delay is the perfect opportunity (albeit for the wrong reasons) to begin to design the architecture for MSR, Mars Sample Return.

-the other Doug
dvandorn
When asked why it's so important to have the actuators at this point for an '09 launch, McCuistion says "The actuators do everything we do on Mars. They turn the wheels, they stop the wheels, they move the robotic arm. If we get to Mars and we can't move, we can't move the arm, we can't take samples, we just have about a metric ton of junk on the Martian surface."

And someone just asked about the 2011 launch window -- McCuistion says the window extends from October through December, with highest likelihood of late October through early November. Sounds like it won't extend into 2012.

-the other Doug
djellison
2011 window is October to December - yet to be determined where in that window.

Doug
elakdawalla
My question was answered. 2011 goes from Oct through December potentially; most likely is late october to early november.

--Emily
mcaplinger
QUOTE (dvandorn @ Dec 4 2008, 09:27 AM) *
Griffin says that the coast thermal vac tests are going ahead on their current schedule.

Give me credit for knowing a little more about my instruments than Griffin. rolleyes.gif

In general, cruise T/V doesn't involve the surface payload.
dvandorn
OK, Mike -- thanks. I just figured that since the cruise thermal vac was including the entire stack, with the assembled rover inside the aeroshell, that anything you'd be doing to calibrate the instruments on it would be involved with the T/V. Thanks for the correction.

-the other Doug
elakdawalla
Dammit, they didn't get to me on the phone questions. These guys are too long-winded.

I got one in but not my other one, which was: When MSL arrives, MRO will have been in orbit for 6 years and no future telecom orbiter is planned. Isn't there risk in assuming MRO will survive for long enough to support MSL communications?
dvandorn
Spoke too soon, there, eh, Emily? Good to hear your voice!

-the other Doug
djellison
Damn good question Emily.
dvandorn
Also good to hear that the decay of the plutonium in the RTG will have an insignificant impact, and that they may well wait a while before fueling the MMRTG.

-the other Doug
elakdawalla
Is 5% insignificant, given the fact that the traverses were already going to be power-limited?
ElkGroveDan
I've been wondering that too Emily.

I just checked in, can anyone give me the short answer?

EDIT: (or blog about it later today rolleyes.gif )
elakdawalla
OK, and here's one more question that I wouldn't have gotten a straight answer to anyway. Can anybody here think of what planetary missions there are that would have big budgets in 2010 and 2011 for MSL to raid? The only one I can think of is Juno.

--Emily
ugordan
QUOTE (elakdawalla @ Dec 4 2008, 07:34 PM) *
Can anybody here think of what planetary missions there are that would have big budgets in 2010 and 2011 for MSL to raid?

I really hope it doesn't get to that.
sci44
Wasn't there talk of Maven being delayed? Another question - will they need a bigger launch vehicle for 2011? I have an idea 2009 was a low energy trajectory year..
jsheff
QUOTE (elakdawalla @ Dec 4 2008, 01:34 PM) *
OK, and here's one more question that I wouldn't have gotten a straight answer to anyway. Can anybody here think of what planetary missions there are that would have big budgets in 2010 and 2011 for MSL to raid? The only one I can think of is Juno.

--Emily


Outer Planets Flagship?

James Webb Space Telescope?

(I don't know what the funding profiles are like for either one.)



- John Sheff
Cambridge, MA
RoverDriver
QUOTE (elakdawalla @ Dec 4 2008, 10:04 AM) *
Is 5% insignificant, given the fact that the traverses were already going to be power-limited?


What I heard is that the limitation on drives is due mostly to battery capacity, not overall energy availability.

Paolo
elakdawalla
Ah, I hadn't realized that. Thanks. --Emily
ugordan
QUOTE (jsheff @ Dec 4 2008, 07:51 PM) *
Outer Planets Flagship?

Is the next flagship scheduled to receive any significant funding that early?
stevesliva
QUOTE (elakdawalla @ Dec 4 2008, 01:34 PM) *
OK, and here's one more question that I wouldn't have gotten a straight answer to anyway. Can anybody here think of what planetary missions there are that would have big budgets in 2010 and 2011 for MSL to raid? The only one I can think of is Juno.


Mars missions that won't happen, no?
elakdawalla
The only other Mars mission NASA is currently developing is MAVEN, and that doesn't launch until 2013, so I would assume it doesn't start costing a ton of money until 2012 and 2013.

And I think the question about the flagship mission has already been asked and answered by somebody official, and you're right, ugordan, there's not a lot of money for it in 2010 and 2011. I don't think.

--Emily
djellison

Key point I got was that the $400m is not in addition to the $200m to finish in 09 - but it's instead of it. And instead of being $200M to find in FY09 - it's $400m to find over FY09,10,11,12,13 and 14 (if I heard Doug right) - so a much easier thing to manage.

Taking the $1.65B (the '06 figure when the mission was confirmed) +25% over-spend that was required for an '09 launch - (2.1B) - the mission will actually be $2.3 - 43% over - not great, but not totally un-known in this field. All things considered, appropriate for the flagship mission that it is (in everything but name)

MSL was NEVER a $600m mission. Smart Lander was - but Smart Lander isn't happening, MSL is. Lots of miss-information out there.
ugordan
QUOTE (djellison @ Dec 4 2008, 08:02 PM) *
Key point I got was that the $400m is not in addition to the $200m to finish in 09 - but it's instead of it. And instead of being $200M to find in FY09 - it's $400m to find over FY09,10,11,12,13 and 14 (if I heard Doug right) - so a much easier thing to manage.

Still, that's money that has to be found somewhere. Regarding MAVEN, when is its launch vehicle supposed to be selected? I'm assuming it'll be an Atlas V and if I remember correctly, it's a 30 month period between vehicle order and launch. That's bound to cost some chunk of cash. At which point in time is the vehicle actually paid for?
mcaplinger
QUOTE (djellison @ Dec 4 2008, 11:02 AM) *
MSL was NEVER a $600m mission. Smart Lander was - but Smart Lander isn't happening, MSL is. Lots of miss-information out there.

Thanks for pointing that out, Doug. It's gotten to the point that there are some sites (I think you know which one I mean speciifically) that I can't look at any more because of an overfocus on the Decadal Survey cost, which has almost nothing to do with the mission that NASA HQ ultimately selected for funding.
Enceladus75
It's somewhat disappointing to see that MSL has been delayed to a 2011 launch, but the upside is that there will be more time for testing of critical elements like the actuators which are critical and the all important skycrane which is a brand new technology.

It is better in my opinion for MSL to have a delay and a flawless flight/landing/surface operations than a rushed job resulting perhaps in at best a faulty rover that can't do good science on Mars and at worst a failed landing attempt and the consequences of that disaster. Beagle 2 and Mars Polar Lander paid the price of corner cutting and a big rush to launch.

That said, Emily's question regarding the riskiness of relying on MRO to support data downlink from MSL is very important. Might there now be a need to launch a dedicated Mars telecoms orbiter to support the surface missions , a plan that was scrapped a while back?
mcaplinger
QUOTE (Enceladus75 @ Dec 4 2008, 12:08 PM) *
Might there now be a need to launch a dedicated Mars telecoms orbiter to support the surface missions...

Need or not, there's no money for such a thing.

I guess if Odyssey and MRO (and MEx?, not sure about the politics there) have failed by the time MSL lands, then MSL will be DTE-only.

Would they launch MSL if all the orbital assets were failed at the time of launch? I have no idea.
sci44
It doesnt sound like NASA has funds for the Telecoms orbiter now. On another thread here someone calculated that MRO/MO have plenty of time left (decades), just based on mono-propellant usage - providing the rest of the craft holds out. If they did decide to do something maybe they should speak to the ESA, who will need an orbiter there for ExoMars in 2016 (Send it with Beagle-3 :-) ). MSL will have a direct to earth comms too, although that would be expensive in DSN time, I guess. I was rather looking forward to Oppy still being running for MSL arrival - I wonder what the odds are now? Worst of all would be if some bright spark ressurected the "turn off a rover" idea..
Does anyone know if the launcher-power remains the same for '11?
EDIT: MEX was going to be Beagles phone-home, and ESA did ask NASA for help trying to talk to Beagle with MGS, so I would guess the ESA would gladly reciprocate. There is a Chinese orbiter going with Phobos-Grunt too - now *that* would be tricky politics.. :-)
djellison
A failure of MODY, MRO AND MEX in 4 years? Highly unlikely.
elakdawalla
Yeah, I've little doubt that, barring some really really bone-headed error, MRO will be around when MSL lands. But MSL's prime mission is two years long. It could last a long, long time beyond that. It's those "out" years that I'm more worried about.

--Emily
djellison
By then, hopefully, we'll have Maven smile.gif
sci44
But we may need to delay Maven to pay for MSL. There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza.. :-)

(Edit: There's a hole in my Budget, dear Liza..)
mcaplinger
QUOTE (sci44 @ Dec 4 2008, 12:30 PM) *
ESA did ask NASA for help trying to talk to Beagle with MGS, so I would guess the ESA would gladly reciprocate.

There's a big difference between a one-off, short term activity and ongoing operations for years. I'm not sure what kind of capability MEx would even have for that given its elliptical orbit.
djellison
QUOTE (sci44 @ Dec 4 2008, 08:50 PM) *
But we may need to delay Maven to pay for MSL.


THat wasn't mentioned - infact, Maven was still explicitly stated with its orig. launch date. Of course, that may change - but then, for no relay - you're asking for the failure of Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, MRO AND the failure of Maven to launch on time. That's a LOT of 'ifs'.

Doug
mcaplinger
QUOTE (elakdawalla @ Dec 4 2008, 12:41 PM) *
Yeah, I've little doubt that, barring some really really bone-headed error, MRO will be around when MSL lands.

It should be noted that MRO had a failure in its telecom system in 2006 which rendered its X-band downlink single-string, so it is one amplifier away from losing the high-gain X-band downlink, and the Ka-band downlink is also suspect though it might be a usable backup. See "In-Flight Anomalies and Lessons Learned from the. Mars. Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission", Todd. J. Bayer, 2008 IEEE Aerospace Conference.

Of course, there's no explicit lifetime for electronics, so MRO could keep going for many years anyway.
elakdawalla
I just got an official reply to my question from Dwayne Brown, the PAO for SMD.
QUOTE
The orbiting assets that are expected to be available to support MSL operations when it arrives at Mars (on the revised schedule) include MRO, Mars Express, and Mars Odyssey. Although two years later, it is still expected that these orbiters will be in place and available for communications relay support for MSL.

Having multiple relay-capable orbiters in place allows the continuation of MSL support if one (or even two) of them should become inoperable. In the very unlikely event that all three orbiters should become unable to provide comm relay support, the MSL rover still has the ability to utilize direct-to-Earth (DTE) communications. Albeit slower, the MSL mission could be completed utilizing the DTE link only.
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